tv The 11th Hour With Brian Williams MSNBC December 5, 2017 1:00am-2:00am PST
thank you both. >> thank you. >> that is "all in" for this evening. the 11th hour with brian williams is next. >> tonight we're covering several firsts in the modern history of the presidency. before he attacked and troeld and diminished the fbi this weekend, the president might have gotten himself in more legal trouble via twitter. however, as his lawyer sees it, it doesn't matter because the president can't obstruct justice because he's the president. also today, president trump endorsed roy moore despite allegations of sexual misconduct by several women. we'll go live to alabama to update the race. all part of the 11th hour on a monday night. and good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. day 319 of the trump administration. this morning the president started his day with the response to the new reality facing this white house, that his former national security advisor has pleaded guilty now to lying to federal
investigators. >> i feel badly for general flynn. i feel very badly. he's led a very strong life and i feel very badly, john. i will say this. hillary clinton lied many times to the fbi. nothing happened to her. flynn lied, and they destroyed his life. i think it's a shame. hillary clinton on the 4th of july weekend went to the fbi, not under oath, it was the most incredible thing anyone's ever seen. she lied many times. nothing happened to her. flynn lied, and it's like they ruined his life. it's very unfair. >> that came after a weekend of controversy for the president because he was so boisterous and verbose over twitter, including what read to a lot of people like an accidental confirmation of obstruction of justice. quote, i had to fire general flynn because he lied to the vice-president and the fbi. he has pled guilty to those lies.
it is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. there was nothing to hide. that's a problem for the president on a number of levels, but the very next day the white house told the press that tweet was dictated by the president's lawyer, john dowd. so, it wasn't the president's words that the president was tweeting out after all. that twitter post created so much controversy originally because it seemed to signify the first time the president has acknowledged publicly that he knew flynn lied to the fbi before mr. trump fired him last february. that raised a new set of questions about whether the president's actions amount to obstruction of justice. here's what the washington post reported about the white house reaction. quote: a person close to the white house involved in the case termed the saturday tweet a
screw up of historic proportions that has caused enormous consternation in the white house. and here is what john dowd told nbc news when asked about the president potentially obstructing justice. quote: the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under the constitution article ii and has every right to express his view of any case. by the way, a number of experts disagree with that and say our system rests on the belief that no one is above the law. also we have learned that general flynn was not acting alone. nbc news reports jared kushner and former national security deputy advisor k.t. macfarlane both spoke with flynn about contracting -- contacting the russians. and "the new york times" reports tonight that an e-mail macfarlane sent during the transition appears to have contradicted testimony she gave congress about contacts between flynn and then russian ambassador sergey kislyak. and we have news about another trump associate tonight, and
that's paul manafort. federal prosecutors say he violated a court order by ghost writing an editorial about his political work in ukraine, and tonight the washington post is reporting prosecutors also say that one of manafort's long-time associates, quote, has been assessed to have ties to russian intelligence. the first time the special counsel has alleged a trump official had such contacts. all of it this weekend led the president to double down on his attacks on hillary clinton and his attacks on the fbi. "after years of comey with the phony and dishonest clinton investigation and more, running the fbi, its reputation is in tatters, worst in history, but fear not, we will bring it back to greatness." well, that brought this response earlier this evening on this network from one of our own analysts, former fbi agent clint watts. >> i'm more now worried about our president tearing down democratic institutions. he is an enemy of the state
whenever he is pushing against the fbi in that way. >> let's bring in our lead off panel on a monday night. kimberly atkins here with us, chief washington reporter for the boston herald. jonathan la mere is back with us, a white house reporter for the associated press. and jeremy bash, former chief of staff at cia and the pentagon. all three are msnbc political analysts. mr. bash, as best you can, can you layout the flynn matter for our viewers in this way, how much further damage do you think the president did this weekend? >> well, friday's plea bargain by mike flynn really boxed the president in. and when the president tweeted on saturday this tweet, i think it really is the tweet which will live in infamy because what he did was he confirmed that he knew in january of 2017 when the fbi interviewed mike flynn, that mike flynn had lied. the warning came from the attorney general, it shot straight up to the president, and the president in firing jim comey knew that a felony had been committed and that not only was the fbi investigating mike flynn, but in fact they were investigating the president and his inner circle. and so friday's deal -- friday's paperwork that accompanied the flynn conviction, his plea bargain, showed that flynn was not act will live in infamy because what he did was he confirmed that he knew in january of 2017 when the fbi interviewed mike flynn, that mike flynn had lied. the warning came from the attorney general, it shot straight up to the president, and the president in firing jim comey knew that a felony had been committed and that not only was the fbi investigating mike flynn, but in fact they were
investigating the president and his inner circle. and so friday's deal -- friday's paperwork that accompanied the flynn conviction, his plea bargain, showed that flynn was not acting alone, that he was acting in full concert with the president and his inner circle. the president appears to have obstructed justice not in an investigation about mike flynn, but an investigation about the president and his inner circle himself. >> kimberly, the president was on the road today. a speech out in utah, and yet this day starts with flynn goes to mcfarland, goes to manafort and for good measure, roy moore ends up getting thrown in the president's day. >> yes. this is at a time when congress is trying to work out the tax plan that the president wants so much. but this investigation just seems to envelope everything, and not just the investigation. the president's reaction to it, these are a series of more self-inflicted wounds that we've seen in the past, when these news of the flynn plea deal came out, subsequently we've seen the
attacks on hillary clinton, the attacks on the fbi. >> the fbi. >> the attacks on this entire process because he's lashing out at it and not realizing in the process of that is saying things, well, i fired him because he lied to the fbi. and then there is the subsequent reporting that he was indeed told that michael flynn lied to the fbi before, weeks before he fired him, and before, the consequential part, before he asked james comey, according to james comey, to let this thing go with respect to the michael flynn investigation. all of these things are just little -- more drops in the bucket that fills up, that gets closer and closer to what could be an obstruction charge. and keep in mind, we don't even know everything that robert mueller and his investigators know. >> more than that, we know a small portion of what robert mueller knows, and yet to her point, jonathan, it feels to lay people like tightening. so, how are trump's allies and associates taking all of this?
>> it's actually a great schism right now in trump world. his legal team is still preaching confidence. ty cobb, john dowd, they suggested this was going to wrap up shortly. there was one prediction this would be over by thanksgiving. >> where are they getting -- >> by most, people outside observers suggest, no, this process has a long way to go. for now, anyway, the president is willing to listen to them. he has been telling people close to him he believes he's going to be exonerated. he believes this will clear up. now, there are many of his allies, both inside the white house and out, who are -- think this is exactly the wrong approach, who he fielded several calls this weekend according to the reporting done in the associated press, from allies who say, mr. president, i don't think that you understand necessarily the gravity of the situation you are in right now. the ramifications of this tweet. you need a new tactic. whether that means a new legal team or a new legal strategy, or
even setting in motion the mechanism that could lead to the replacement of robert mueller. the president right now has said he doesn't want to go down that path. he has told some advisors he's not considering pardons at this moment. but this is going to come to a head at -- sooner than later. >> jeremy bash, let's talk about the fbi, one of the president's targets over the weekend. if you're old enough, you grew up in this country when the fbi was a bureau and a television show, and we would sit at home and marvel at the courage of these federal law enforcement officers. now, they've had some fdi directors with a unique idea as to what the law is in this country, but by and large, these are federal law enforcement officers we were raised to respect the fbi. this is not, however, the first institution the president has sought to diminish, tear down and criticize. >> yeah, and i really
appreciated the note that chris ray, the director of the fbi sent to the entire fbi work force earlier today. basically he said, keep your head down, keep calm and tackle hard. that was his motto. and he basically said, don't listen to the noise in washington. it was a pretty stunning rebuke to the president who has been unleashing these massive criticisms on the men and women of the bureau who protect our country. they enforce the laws. they investigate crimes. and they conduct important national security work protecting us from the kinds of threats like russians interfering in our elections. i've talked to fbi agents, very senior folks, former folks, and they are horrified and offended at the way the president has been attacking the bureau, which is a national treasure. >> kimberly, we are also being asked, after witnessing how personal and immediate the president's twitter feed is, we're being asked to think that this one tweet was given to him, was dictated to him by his lawyer. everything else is directly from
him. >> right. and it was the only time, the first and the last time -- >> that's right. >> lawyers like me were focusing on the fact that the word pled guilty was used. if you've gone to law school you know the word is pleaded. it reads like donald trump's tweets, the way he tweets them. so, i have yet to find someone who truly believes that john dowd wrote that tweet. it was clearly trying to clean something up, perhaps in the process of some sort of attorney/client privilege if there are questions about exactly how this tweet came to be. but clearly just the same kind of clean up after the fact, after some sort of mistake is made, to try to allay the fears of the president and give them a talking point to try to explain this away. it's tough. >> john, jonathan, does the fear now go to kushner, people who are looking forward, looking at the next pieces?
do all eyes move to the son-in-law and senior advisor? >> it's certainly poshl. it's a short list of candidates. he has been identified by source as the very senior official who mike flynn talked to during the transition, who, you know, reached out to russian officials at that behest, therefore essentially carrying the message of the president. there is a belief that, yes, he could be next. don junior has also been in the cross hairs of mueller and his probe. and that leads to the question of how is the president going to react? it has become sort of a truism as this probe has gone on, that as there becomes a moment of increased pressure, the president reacts in sort of a less than particularly hinged manner. we see that on twitter. we see that at a rally. we see that in his comments to reporters on the south lawn. as it creeps closer and closer to his family, to his son, to his son-in-law, as it creeps closer and closer to his front door, which is what a lot of people think the tweet this weekend indicates, that's something that this -- hey, this is a real possibility that obstruction is in play here. how does the president react? and do we head down that path that some of these advisors as indicated before want him to?
want him to try to start the process to push out mueller, which would not an overstatement, lead us to a full-blown constitutional crisis. >> all right. mr. bash, you and kimberly might be the lawyers here. but can you come up with a phrase like less than particularly hinged? that one is going in the hall of fame. having said that, with your lawyer's eye, what are you watching for next and this coming week? >> well, my view, brian, is this is going to turn really to the issue of obstruction. i think bob mueller is going to really dig into the question of what was the -- what were the conversations inside the west wing about the firing of jim comey? the president has acknowledged
publicly that he did it with the russia investigation on his brain. if there can be some corroborating evidence to this tweet that shows that the president knew a felon -- felony was committed and that flynn had lied to the fbi and with that knowledge he fired jim comey, that that i think ratchets up the pressure on the president. >> kimberly atkins, jonathan la mere and jim bash, thank you. the party of roy moore, the president delivered a full throated endorsement of moore. now the gop jumps back into the alabama race. and next up, a legal break down on the claim of one of the president's lawyers that the president cannot obstruct justice because he's the president. that and more. we're just getting started on a monday night. hi. i'm the one clocking in... when you're clocking out. sensing your every move and automatically adjusting to help you stay effortlessly comfortable. i can even help with a silent night. does your bed do that? i don't actually talk, but i can tell you how you slept. i'm the new sleep number 360 smart bed. let's meet at a sleep number store.
we want to take a moment here to talk about whether the president can or cannot obstruct justice. his own lawyer, john dowd, says he cannot because the president, and here is harvard law school professor alan dershowitz and was praised by donald trump. >> you cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire comey and his constitutional authority to tell the justice department who to investigate, who not to investigate. for obstruction of justice by the president, you need clearly illegal acts. with nixon, hush money paid, telling people to lie, destroying evidence. >> there has been much discussion throughout the day about this legal defense, a report in the washington post saying this. "the brazen assertion monday by one of president trump's lawyers
that a president cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice signalled a controversial defense strategy in the wide-ranging russia probe as trump's political advisors are increasingly concerned about the legal advice he is receiving." here to talk about it jill wine-banks, former assistant watergate counsel and msnbc legal analyst, and jack sherman is with us, now the financial services committee during the white water investigation. he is these days a criminal defense attorney. jill, i'd like to begin with you. is the president, is any american above the law? is the president immune to charges of obstruction of justice? >> i think anybody who studied history and studied the watergate case knows that if it proved anything, it proves that no one is above the law, and that the president can be charged with obstruction of justice. he was an unindicted coconspirator, that is president nixon, in the watergate indictment. and today i actually looked at our indictment, and so many of
the overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to obstruct justice are things that i can hear donald trump's lawyer arguing. well, the president has power to do that. he has absolute authority. so, he can't be charged with it. well, the president and all his top aides were actually charged with that, and they went to jail. they were convicted. the president had to resign as a result of all of that. he was impeached in the articles of impeachment for both obstruction of justice and for abuse of power. so, even if you don't think it's obstruction, you have to realize that it is at least an abuse of his power. he cannot pardon everyone. that would be an abuse of a power he clearly has. but he cannot abuse it. so, i do not accept the argument of either dershowitz or dowd. >> jack, same question to you. >> well, clearly the president under article ii has extensive constitutional authority over
the executive branch, and he can fire an fbi director. he can stop an investigation. he can even fire a special counsel. he has the authority to do that. what he may not do, though, is to do so corruptly. and if a president does so corruptly, that is, to influence or impede an investigation under certain federal obstruction statutes, he or she can be charged with obstruction of justice. so, if president trump's lawyers are asserting just as a blanket proposition that he cannot be charged, that's not accurate. >> jill, another question for you, something we civilians grappled with this weekend. about this tweet, can a tweet really get the president in further legal jeopardy? and does it matter if mr. dowd says, yeah, that's on me, that's my bad, i dictated it?
because it went out under the president's name and impromatur? >> we go back to what does the president know -- i won't say it, what did the president know and when did he know it. the question is did the president know at the time that he fired flynn that flynn had lied to the fbi. did he know at the time that he told comey to stop the investigation that flynn had committed a felony. if he was trying to stop an investigation where he knew that a crime had been committed, that's clearly an improper act. and, so, the content of the tweet is what's important. and it doesn't matter whether john dowd conveyed information he got from the president or whether the president wrote it himself. either way, if the president knew about the crime and then
tried to stop the investigation, that's an obstruction of justice and it's something that is really a serious offense. >> and, jack, a weighty question for you is, is impeachment in your mind as we talk about this tonight a foreseeable possibility? >> well, presumably it's foreseeable depending upon what the special counsel's ultimate report is or is not. impeachment, of course, is a somewhat different and peculiar constitutional animal because it's both legal and constitutional and political. an offense that might be impeachable need not necessarily be a crime, although it often is. we are probably a long way from any such consideration and even is probably wise to not overread
things like tweets. but is impeachment something that would potentially be considered by some, especially if there are no criminal charges brought, certainly. but i think it's probably premature to make those predictions now. >> two first-rate experienced lawyers have given us all of us civilians a lot to talk and think about. jill wine-banks, jack sharman, thank you both so much for being here with us tonight. coming up as we approach another break, what it means for the senate race in alabama as the republican party as a whole now that the president and the gop are fully supporting roy moore. that and more when the 11th hour continues.
we are back here with some new developments in the alabama senate race this evening. the rnc, which had pulled out of the race after moore was accused of sexual misconduct, the rnc has now jumped back into the race in support of moore. moore, as we have reported, denies the claims against him. the news came tonight after moore received a full-throated endorsement from donald trump today. the president's aforementioned twitter account, democrats
refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need republican roy moore to win in alabama. we need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, border wall, military, pro life, va, judges, second amendment and more. no to jones, a pelosi schumer puppet. the washington post also out with new details saying the woman knew moore when she was a
teenager. robert costas is going to join us on that in just a moment. first we figured we'd get a status report on the big board from steve korn aki. hi, steve. >> a week from tomorrow alabama voters will go to the polls. that's the story now. trump complete endorsement now of roy moore, signals of a changing posture from mitch mcconnell. the rnc, why are we seeing these signals a week out? look at what's happening. two weeks ago this is what the lay of the land looked like politically in alabama in this race. you see two weeks ago, if you average the polls together back then, doug jones, the democrat, had the lead. the significance obviously that was the first time in more than two decades a democrat was leading in polling in a u.s. senate race in alabama. so republicans are saying you have all these stories coming out about roy moore. he has now fallen behind. maybe the bottom is going to fall out. maybe the floor is going to fall out for roy moore and he's just going to collapse. they weren't sure, they were keeping their distance. he didn't have mitch mcconnell sending the signals he's now sending. what happened since then? stabilization, this is not massive movement but i think it's significant. roy moore back into a small, but seemingly steady lead in the polling of this race. you see here about 2 1/2 points over doug jones. now, again, this is close, that is volatile. we are in uncharted territory here in a lot of ways. we're not sure who is, who isn't
going to turnout for an election in the middle of december in alabama. so, this is not to say doug jones can't win this race next week. it is to say that republicans who two weeks ago thought roy maybe he's the favorite to win and we don't want to lose this seat. so, that's the most significant move i think today. in the last 24 hours, it's mitch mcconnell, two weeks ago he was talking about expulsion. he was saying, hey, you know what, you win this election, roy moore, you're going to face an ethics investigation, you're going to be expelled. now that is a very different posture. it suggests if roy moore does win this race a week from tomorrow, mit post, moderator on washington week on pbs also an msnbc people of alabama has spoken, that settles the matter. >> steve korn aki, fantastic stuff from the big board. thank you so much for being with us tonight. as promised we go to robert costa, national political reporter for the washington post, moderator on washington week on pbs also an msnbc political analyst. he's in tuscaloosa tonight covering this race. and, robert, what do you make of the number, the percentage of voters who are on the move, the vote that is migrating perhaps back and forth between these candidates, or do you think as steve seems to indicate, this is getting a little bit baked into
the cake now? >> it's a significant move, brian. i spent the whole day here in tuscaloosa and in birmingham talking to voters. when they're talking about a senate race as much as they are talking about the crimson tide football team, you know this is a hot race in the state of alabama. what i've found, brian, in the course of my reporting is that many voters are very skittish of roy moore. they're unhappy and wary of these allegations against him. at the same time, they're deeply conservative when it comes to their own political views. so, the question for doug jones, the democrat is in this last week, this final chapter, can he actually bring them across that finish line? because of the moral question, not because of politics. >> tell us about this story your newspaper has tonight, more evidence from one of the women accusers. >> the washington post continues to talk to the women who have made these credible accusations against roy moore, and the roy moore campaign continues to say that these are not credible accusations. and one of the ways they have done so is questioning the year book of one of the acc talking about the crimson tide football team, you know this is a hot race in the state of alabama. what i've found, brian, in the course of my reporting is that many voters are very skittish of roy moore. they're unhappy and wary of these allegations against him. at the same time, they're deeply conservative when it comes to their own political views. so, the question for doug jones, the democrat is in this last week, this final chapter, can he actually bring them across that finish line? because of the moral question, not because of politics. >> tell us about this story your newspaper has tonight, more evidence from one of the women
accusers. >> the washington post continues to talk to the women who have made these credible accusations against roy moore, and the roy moore campaign continues to say that these are not credible accusations. and one of the ways they have done so is questioning the year book of one of the accusers, the signature of roy moore inside of that year book. the washington post has new reporting tonight by stephanie mccrummen who broke the story the note alleged to be signed by roy moore. we believe they are signed by roy moore at the washington post. it shows he was friendly in the least, likely in some kind of relationship, a courtship in the early 1980s when he was in his 30s and this woman who makes the statement tonight was in high school. >> and, robert, about the rnc, we mentioned they are back in the race. it was widely reported when they pulled out, pulled up stakes and went home. now do you think as a result of the president's endorsement, it was kind of incumbent on the
party to go back in? >> it was more than incumbent, brian. the president owns the party. the party may like to think of itself as a somewhat independent operation, but it is not. when you have a president in your own party, inside of the white house, that means he or she owns the republican national committee or the democratic national committee. so, they really had little choice here. you see some independence for the moment with the national republican senatorial committee not going all in when it comes to roy moore in alabama. but the rnc, it follows what president trump wants. >> well put as always. robert cost a with us tonight from tuscaloosa, alabama. thank you so much. and coming up for us this evening, just what was in that tax bill the senate was racing to pass when last we spoke here on friday night? and what needs to happen before any of it gets the president's signature and becomes law? that and more with two experts when we continue.
we're now one huge step closer to delivering to the american people the historic tax relief as a giant present for christmas. remember, i said we're bringing christmas back? christmas is back bigger and better than ever before. we're bringing christmas back. >> christmas is coming back. when we last spoke, and by the time we got off the air friday night, there was no vote yet on the tax bill in the u.s. senate. though it was clear that's where they were headed and they were going to go all night if need be. then just before 2:00 a.m. came the party line vote and a lot of folks spent the weekend trying
to figure out just what was in the bill. about 500 pages thick, some of it handwritten, we have here tonight two journalists who have done that and can talk us through what now has to happen with the house version. starting with our own ali velshi at 11:00 a.m. eastern on this network, he is also the host of msnbc live at 3:00 p.m. eastern on this network and chose to come back in and join us on the night shift. and there is jeremy peters, the dome behind him, political reporter for "the new york times" and msnbc contributor. gentlemen, truly welcome to you both. and thank you for coming. ali, what's in it, what's not in it? >> all right, the important things are this was sold as middle class tax relief that was not going to be particularly advantageous to the wealthy and that was going to cause a remarkable economic growth. on all three points, it's simply
not true. the vast majority of middle class earners, at least earners earning up to $75,000 will see over the length of this, over ten years is how we stretch it out, will see an increase to their taxes. this will be a great benefit to the wealthy through the elimination of the amt and the estate tax. the house and senate treat them a little bit differently, but they're both things for high earners. and a number of studies, including from goldman sachs, from wharton, have looked at the growth potential of the economy as a result of this tax bill. goldman just said this morning
that what it will do is it will goose economic growth a little bit for a couple of years, and then it might actually have a negative effect on economic growth and there is no report that indicates less than half a trillion dollar addition to the national deficit. some go as far as adding $2 trillion. whether you like it or not, whether you like the effect it is going to have on you or not, it is intellectually disingenuous. it has been sold as one thing and it is entirely something else. >> and, jeremy, that brings us to a follow-up question. some of the more insidious, some of the sneakier items that people like you have found in this based on days of reading what past friday night. >> there are a lot of giveaways to the right, especially the religious right, brian. for example, there is a provision in there that would allow savings plans that were previously used only for colleges to be used for private
and religious secondary schools. so, you could deduct your catholic school high school tuition. i'm sorry, you could set aside money in those tax advantageous plans. you could do the same for home schooling costs. that is another big giveaway to the religious right. and kind of a gut punch to the left to chuck schumer especially of new york, you used to be able to set aside money in an account that would allow you to save on your bike commute to work. you will no longer be able to do that under the senate provision of the plan and, of course, in new york, those city bike shares are people who bike to work every day. washington has the same type of program. you're not going to be able to set aside money to do that any more. another provision that went unnoticed is a giveaway to distilleries. guess where there is a lot of distilling going on? in kentucky, the home state of mitch mcconnell, the senate majority leader. >> i was just figuring out where mcconnell is from. so, ali, what stands between senate bill, house bill, president signing something before, say, the end of the
year? >> two things. probably not much. i think there's going to be a deal, but there are two things that are standing between them. one is there are apparently some deficit hawks still around. a few republicans -- >> imagine that. >> who are actually concerned about the damage this will do. the president's argument and the argument of those around him is this will grow the economy to such a degree that the addition to the deficit will just disappear. again, that doesn't actually bear out. the that are going to stand in the way. taking away state and local deductions and not satisfying some members that this is actually goi a number of republicans, again, voted against the house bill and have said they will not support a bill that still has those deductions. the bottom line is there is very little political capital involved in taking away the state and local deductions when you're a senator because there are no senators from the places that are affected by this. so, those are the two things that are going to stand in the way. taking away state and local deductions and not satisfying some members that this is actually going to not be harmful to the deficit. senator corker was not convinced of this, which is why he didn't support the bill. >> they lost him. now, jeremy, we heard the president say christmas was found and it's coming back. he is calling this a huge christmas present to the american people.
the question is are lawmakers going to go home and run on this? is there going to be pride and authorship? is this going to really make the customers happy enough to run on? >> i don't see that, brian. and i spent a good chunk of last week talking to republican lawmakers. a lot of whom said to me, we are having a really hard time selling this back at home. our voters don't believe this will benefit them. they believe it benefits corporations and the wealthy, but not their bottom line. so, unless the big turns out to be something dramatically different than the analyses have told us it will, republicans will have a difficult time running in 2018 and 2020 saying that they gave a big tax cut to working americans. >> two really smart guys to walk us through this really complicated 500-page-thick thing that was passed friday night. ali, jeremy, gentlemen, thank you so much. coming up, a national
70 miles to the north of here in utilize some of the most remarkable land in the world. in protecting it we live up to our obligation to preserve our natural heritage. >> the chunk of utah the president is setting aside is extremely valuable. as far as coal mines go it is a gold mine. what will be the staircase monument is worth almost a trillion dollars for the coal that is beneath the extraordinary landscape. protecting it will infuriate many in utah and it already has.
>> in all of my 20 years in the united states senate i have never seen a more clear example of the arrogance of federal power. indeed, this is the mother of all land grabs. >> that report from a young and so far unidentified white house correspondent traveling with president clinton 21 years ago, the day he dedicated grand staircase escalante monument in utah, it angered utah republicans that day and they have done a slow burn about it ever since that day. they got their wish. when the president shrunk the amount of land set aside for he is -- escalante and bears ears 85%. >> some people think the natural resources of utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in washington. and guess what? they're wrong. i've come to utah to take a very
historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens. [cheering and applauding] >> to put this story another way, there are 2 million fewer acres compared to this morning. that is a roll back when we woke up this morning. and that's the largest such rollback in u.s. history. today on this network the vice president of navajo nation reacted to the news. >> today marks one week after president trump, you know, mentioned the pocahontas deal. and now we're looking at another troubling action by the white house. and it's just -- you know, it is a sad day. it's a sad day in indian country. it's a sad day for americans. >> well, with us tonight to talk about what happened today, pulitzer prize-winning
presidential historian and author john meacham. john, outside utah and especially on the coasts no one woke up today saying, you know what? we have an annoyingly large amount of pristine land, we should talk to somebody about reversing that. so what happened in your view today? >> it was not top of mind, i think, for a lot of folks. and i think t.r., the sound you hear in the background is theodore roosevelt spinning around in his grave. as you pointed out, that unnamed white house correspondent back in '96 put his finger on it, which is an enormous amount of coal. it's been a source of great agitation in utah for a biblical 21 years. the definition of a generation. and what happened here is president trump interestingly using some of the classic language of ronald reagan, who in 1964 in the great speech that he gave for barry goldwater that
introduced reagan to the country as a political figure, he said a key tenet of modern conservatism that we could run our lives better than bureaucrats in the distant washington. whether that was a conscious echo today or not, i don't know. but it was part of that anti-government tradition. the interesting thing about this is historically speaking no president has ever really done extremely well by failing to protect natural resources. this is just over a century of a movement. again, theodore roosevelt, who was close to john muir, the great naturalist, began the national parks, began the national monuments in an attempt to conserve in the classic sense. and it's one more step of this republican party being something that is a force for the
corporate interests as opposed to those of the more classic conservative interests. >> jon, serious question. where do you think this would poll if we did opinion polling? and i assume it will be polled. and the second part of it is have any other presidents given land back, given land that was preserved to special interests or mineral rights or anything like that? >> the president -- the second president roosevelt did. he shrunk the grand canyon for various reasons. i think if you poll this it's -- it doesn't seem to me to be a big winner to put more land at the service of the coal industry. president trump likes to talk about beautiful coal. but it feels like an elective decision on his part. it is once again an attempt by this president to serve his base of support, his base interests, not reaching beyond that core base. and i was thinking about t.r., who was sort of our winston churchill, a great writer, a great politician. he talked about how the
wilderness had charmed melancholy and mystery. and one of the things that i think we have here is a kind of melancholy hour where you have a president who is going to serve those corporate interests as opposed to the conservation ones. >> i saw that quote earlier tonight on something t.r. could not have anticipated, and that is the twitter feed of our guest tonight, jon meacham. presidential historian and author. thank you, sir, very much for being with us after this day. coming up here as we continue, as jon can tell you, if you watch a lot of cable news you already know this. senators say the darnedest things. tonight's installment after the break.
run, jump, or swim in to experience the power of tempur-pedic sleep with our 90-day trial and being the highest ranked mattress in customer satisfaction by jd power, it's easy to love. find your exclusive retailer at tempurpedic.com we're back, and the last thing before we go tonight, senators say the darnedest things. here are two things recently said by u.s. senators, both loosely having to do with the effort to pass the tax bill. we're just going to let them say their thing, and we're going to leave it at that. but first, louisiana republican senator john kennedy, no relation, talking about politics on capitol hill. >> i've been in politics a long time. this is perfectly normal. part of politics is drama. and everybody up here has politics and is blood.
kind of like herpes. we will get through this. >> louisiana republican senator john kennedy. did i mention no relation? next up is iowa republican senator chuck grassley. comments he now claims were taken out of context. comments about the estate tax. >> i think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have. whether it's on booze or women or movies. >> again, iowa republican senator chuck grassley. roll that one around for a while. tonight's installment of "senators say the darnedest things." and that is our broadcast on a monday night as we start off a new week. thank you so very much for being here with us. good night from nbc news headquarters in new york.
♪ you better watch out ♪ you better not cry ♪ you better not lie to the fbi ♪ ♪ robert mueller's coming to town ♪ ♪ robert mueller's coming to town ♪ ♪ robert mueller's coming to town ♪ just days after michael flynn admitted to the fbi, there are new questions whether president trump has tweeted himself into legal trouble. white house lawyers are now offering different arguments of obstruction of justice